Can they repeat their frequent World Cup heroics at a Euros? Modric will again be relied upon to lead an ageing but always dangerous side

The Croatia fans have seen great success at World Cups, but precious little at European Championships, and will hope that changes in Germany. Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


Croatia have never won a knockout round game at a European Championship. And if that sounds odd given that they always seem to be punching above their weight, then how about this: the last (and only) time they’ve beaten anyone in 90 minutes after the group stage at any major tournament was 26 years ago in France (Romania and Germany). In Qatar they even reached the semi-finals after winning only one game before extra time or penalties – against Canada – and not outplaying any of their opponents in any of the other four matches.

Still, their public back home have been spoiled with ludicrous success and now more or less the same is expected from the team in Germany. This time, however, things are looking less good than before previous tournaments – and that’s not taking in a rather wretched qualifying campaign for the Vatreni.

Zlatko Dalic’s team set up in 4-3-3, with 4-2-3-1 as their back-up plan. There have been many suggestions that three at the back would suit this group of players more, but that is not going to happen as long as Luka Modric is around and most likely calling the shots from behind the scenes.

And while building the team around the (ageing) captain still makes sense, it does mean that other important, in-form players are pushed out of their comfort zone. So Josko Gvardiol’s hybrid role at Manchester City can’t be replicated with the national team, leaving Dalic having to choose between using him as a centre-back or left-back.

Andrej Kramaric is brilliant for Hoffenheim operating further down the pitch as a midfielder but with Croatia he is forced to operate either on the wing or up front. Even Bruno Petkovic, who likes to drop back and play between the lines for Dinamo Zagreb, is expected to perform a much more traditional striker role. On top of that, many players have struggled with form or injuries this season and there are several uncertainties heading into these finals.

On Monday their preparations at least got off to a good start with a 3-0 friendly victory against North Macedonia, Lovro Majer getting two of the goals.